Pre-season defeat highlights areas for Boro’ improvement

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A stuttering performance and a slightly surprising defeat: Tommy Widdrington’s new Borough are some way from being the finished product.

Hythe, strong and uncomplicated, not only gave Eastbourne a valuable work-out, but had the nerve to pinch the game courtesy of a seventh minute goal.

The rest of an even first half saw few goal chances at either end, and the usual string of substitutions turned the second half into a rather disjointed affair, not much above a training game.

With six more full friendlies scheduled before Borough kick off the season proper – at Dorchester on August 18 – Widdrington still has ample time to weld a side to tackle Conference South.

Only two of Saturday’s starting 11 – Simon Johnson and Sam Cole – were regulars last season.

And while the manager has clearly been gathering some promising young talent to Priory Lane, he still faces a twofold task.

Firstly, the squad is clearly too large. In casting his net quite wide, Tommy has garnered enough for two teams.

His judgement in the next week or so, on who to keep and who to release, will be crucial.

And secondly, those players who will carry Borough colours into the new season must find each other’s measure. They must click into a coherent pattern of play and, simply, become a team.

Saturday’s performance had few highlights, some frustrations and some forgettable moments.

The early goal conceded was shoddy – a defender caught under pressure and ruthlessly punished for the error by Hythe striker Craig Thompson.

And Borough’s response was patchy, with some players perhaps keener to take supporting roles when they needed to take the initiative.

Yet there were positives. Both ‘keepers looked competent and Danny Potter pulled off one astonishing reflex save just after half-time.

Anwar Uddin was almost flawless and could well form a convincing partnership with Ollie Rowe, who looked a composed, confident influence in the second half.

With Marvin Hamilton also getting most things right, the defence is starting to take shape.

In front of them, the midfield was never really fluent, but Anthony Storey often looked the potential playmaker, and Simon Johnson showed he still his much to offer to this team if the right role is found for him.

Up front, not so many questions were answered. Second-half substitutes Toby Ajala and Shaun Lee both had flashes of real potential, but they were living off scraps and probably deserve another chance.

Widdrington will also know that he was lacking the wiles of Gary Hart – still nursing a calf strain – and the explosive potential of the unavailable David Knight.

So the healthy clutch of Borough fans, resigned to unexpected defeat and a deflated journey back across the tortuous roads of south-east Kent, had food for thought.

The road to Dorchester has a few twists still to negotiate.

Borough (first half 4-4-1-1): Danny Potter; Marvin Hamilton, Anwar Uddin, Matt Turpin, Danny Carvalho; Ben Adams, Anthony Storey, Sam Corcoran, Sam Cole; Simon Johnson; Laurence Yaga.

Second half substitutes: (goal) Nick Jordan; (defenders) Ollie Rowe, Darren Baker, Tom Gilbert; (midfield/forward) Charlie Gorman, Darren Lok, Chris Morgan, Shaun Lee, Toby Ajala.